Three Giants writers give their takeaways from the Giants' preseason matchup with the Jets:
The third preseason game is known as the "dress rehearsal" because it's the final time the starters play a significant number of snaps until the regular season.
If Saturday night against the Jets showed us anything, the Giants are headed in the right direction. They built a 29-3 lead in the first half with their core players before the backups came in to hold on for a 32-31 victory.
In this week's Cover 3, our writers talk about what we learned about the starters with Week 1 just 13 days away and counting.
After an offseason of the starting offensive line remaining intact from 2016, we might have seen the first signs of change on Saturday night. After the same five (from left to right: Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, John Jerry and Bobby Hart) started the game, Ben McAdoo began to mix and match a little bit. Brett Jones was the next guy in at right guard, which wasn't surprising given he split first-team reps with Jerry last week. Jones did get pushed into the backfield a couple times but was able to re-establish his leverage and prevent the Jets from getting to Eli Manning. He also moved well on a couple of running plays. D.J. Fluker (right guard) and Chad Wheeler (left tackle) got their opportunities next. It would appear the right guard spot is still a bit up in the air, and it will be interesting to see who is playing that spot on Thursday night against the Patriots. There is still evaluation that needs to be done.
This Giants defense, both on an individual level and as a unit, is not looking to rest on its performance of last season. Landon Collins broke out last year with an All-Pro campaign, while Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins and Olivier Vernon, the three newcomers, picked up postseason accolades for the first time in their careers. They led a defensive resurgence that saw the Giants climb from No. 30 to No. 2 in scoring in the span of a year. If there were any doubters out there, that contingent is dwindling. At least, it should be, based on what we've seen in the preseason. The defense alone outscored the Jets, 16-3, in the first half this past Saturday, thanks to a safety and two interceptions returned for touchdowns.
"We're definitely happy with where we're at," Collins said after the game. "Definitely looking to grow, continue to grow and make big plays. Just ready to play all four quarters now and see what we could do. We got a half of it, try to see how we could do four now."
With four wide receivers sidelined due to injuries against the Jets, Eli Manning had an opportunity to build chemistry with several other weapons, including this year's first-round pick Evan Engram. In the last two preseason games, Manning has looked the way of the rookie tight end a few times, including three targets in the MetLife Bowl, two of which he hauled in for 32 yards. It's certainly encouraging that Engram has shown his ability to separate from defenders in the middle of the field and extend plays with yardage after the catch. The Giants drafted Engram to serve as another weapon for Manning and the preseason has provided a glimpse of what he can potentially do moving forward, especially in the green zone. With that being said, any young tight end in the NFL also has to be well-rounded and trusted as a blocker. During a conference call with reporters Sunday, Ben McAdoo said Engram is "willing as a blocker" but "has to finish better."
As for the receiving corps, Sterling Shepard was the only starting wideout who saw playing time with the first team, and Roger Lewis and Travis Rudolph both took advantage of their opportunities as they look to solidify spots on the final 53-man roster. Late in the first quarter, Manning connected with Lewis for 17 yards on a fourth-and-three from the Jets 18-yard line to set up an Orleans Darkwa one-yard rushing score. Rudolph's most impressive play, a 57-yard catch-and-run, came when Josh Johnson was under center, but he also hooked up with Manning for a 12-yard grab early in the first quarter. Considering both players lined up with the first team, their playmaking abilities shouldn't be overlooked as the Giants look to showcase depth at that position come the regular season.